The NBA playoffs are often viewed as an entirely different season which makes sense.
The stakes are so much higher for players, coaches and fans, knowing that one missed free throw or that blown defensive assignment could be the difference in winning or losing or worse - being eliminated from the playoffs altogether.
But as we march towards a new NBA champion, certain players emerge and stand out for all the right reasons.
Some are familiar faces that tend to do this kind of thing every time the postseason rolls around. Others are making the most of their first real opportunity to showcase their game in the playoffs.
And then you have players like Jayson Tatum whose game, already on an All-Star level, has shifted into SuperNova mode as the Boston Celtics made surprisingly quick work of the Brooklyn Nets in pulling off the only sweep thus far in the playoffs.
Among this postseason’s breakout performers, Tatum’s play certainly stands out.
But he’s not alone.
Here’s a look at top five breakout performers thus far in the playoffs.
1 .Jayson Tatum (29.5 points, 7.3 assists and 4.5 rebounds per game)
If there were a playoff MVP of the first round, it would have to be Jayson Tatum. Not only did he lead Boston to the only first-round sweep, but he did so in outplaying Kevin Durant, one of the greatest ever. That’s what MVPs do.
2. Jimmy Butler (30.5 points, 7.8 rebounds and 5.3 assists)
You have to give it up for Jimmy Butler in the playoffs thus far. He has done his part in silencing all critics who thought he might be less than stellar in this series. The Atlanta Hawks have been no match for Butler dominating play at both ends of the floor in what should be a series wrapped up by the Heat as early as tonight.
3. Brandon Ingram (29.8 points, 6.8 rebounds and 5.3 assists per game)
Well before this postseason run, we all knew Brandon Ingram could play. But the way he has gone about being the best player on the floor most nights against the top overall seed Phoenix Suns, has been impressive. And while Devin Booker’s injury has certainly helped the Pelicans in their quest for an upset, that doesn’t diminish the play of Ingram who has been nothing short of spectacular thus far.
4. Giannis Antetokounmpo (27.5 points, 14.5 rebounds and 7.0 assists per game)
With Khris Middleton (MCL sprain, left knee) out for the remainder of Milwaukee's first-round series against Chicago, Antetokounmpo has done what the great ones always do - carry his team more than usual. He is the only player in the postseason ranked among the top eight in points, assists and rebounds per game.
5. Jalen Brunson (28.6 points, 5.2 rebounds and 4.6 assists per game)
We have seen flashes of Jalen Brunson’s ability to score the ball at a high level. It was even more on display in the absence of Luka Doncic for Dallas’ first three playoff games against Utah. Every summer there are players whose postseason play leads to a major payday. It’s hard to imagine anyone cashing in more on this summer, than Brunson.